South Dakota: Only 27 voters used state’s $668K program to help military members vote | Rapid City Journal

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is considering ending a voting system paid for with a $668,000 federal grant but which attracted only 27 voters. Krebs told legislators last week that the high cost might force her to shut off the electronic voting system for military personnel started by her predecessor, Jason Gant. But Gant said he is proud of the effort, even though only 27 military personnel used it to cast ballots in the 2014 election. Krebs said the system was developed using a $668,000 grant from the Federal Voting Assistance Program. State records show Gant signed a contract on Aug. 23, 2013, to pay a software company to build the iOASIS program for military personnel. It was intended to be a much-faster and more attractive substitute for traditional absentee ballots.

South Dakota: Complaints surface about fall election | Argus Leader

The Minnehaha County Commission pushed off until Nov. 18 a review of the general election, marked by ballot counting that did not conclude until the next morning and questions about why some voters received incorrect ballots. Three people didn’t want to wait. They used the public comment portion of a commission meeting Wednesday to voice complaints and observations about the election. Commissioners listened to the testimony but did not comment. Lori Stacey, head of South Dakota’s Constitution Party, brought a broadly focused indictment of the election to commissioners’ attention. She claimed two of her party’s candidates, Curtis Strong, who planned to run for governor and Charles Haan who was going to run for the U.S. House, were incorrectly denied a place on the ballot. Having faced no primary opposition, they should have automatically been on the general election ballot, Stacey said. Instead, Secretary of State Jason Gant and Attorney General Marty Jackley ruled those candidates did not meet the threshold of petition signatures necessary to get on the ballot.

South Dakota: Native Americans say voting rights are violated | Associated Press

The Wanblee residents argue in the lawsuit that Jackson County is discriminating against Native Americans by not opening a satellite office in their community for voter registration and absentee voting, the Rapid City Journal ( ) reported Sunday. Oglala Sioux Tribe vice president Thomas Poor Bear is among the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs on Friday filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier to issue a preliminary injunction ordering the county to open a satellite office in Wanblee for the time left before the election. Jackson County auditor Vicki Wilson declined to comment on the details of the lawsuit. Meanwhile, South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant says all of the county’s residents have the same access to voter registration and absentee voting as every South Dakotan. “We are 100 percent equal across the state,” Gant said. “Every South Dakota county has at least one location within their county borders where people can absentee vote face-to-face.”

South Dakota: Judge rules against Libertarian in ballot lawsuit | Associated Press

A federal judge ruled Thursday against the South Dakota Libertarian Party in an attempt to add its Public Utilities Commission candidate to the November general election ballot. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol heard arguments and concluded Secretary of State Jason Gant followed state law last week in declaring Ryan Gaddy, of Sioux Falls, ineligible to run for the office because he didn’t change his party affiliation from Republican in time to be nominated at the Libertarian convention. “It seems to the court Secretary Gant had no alternative other than to deny the application,” Piersol said. He also deemed constitutional a state law requiring candidates to be members of the party that nominates them.

South Dakota: Libertarians seek to stop ballot printing | Associated Press

South Dakota’s Libertarian Party asked a federal judge Wednesday to stop Secretary of State Jason Gant from printing November general election ballots without the name of its candidate for the state Public Utilities Commission. Gant last week ruled Ryan Gaddy ineligible to run for the office, saying Gaddy didn’t comply with a state law that requires candidates to be members of the party that nominates them. Gaddy changed his party affiliation from Republican at the Libertarian convention, but the official paperwork wasn’t filed until later. That meant Gaddy was still a Republican at the time of his Libertarian nomination, a violation of state law, according to Gant.

South Dakota: Judge orders Gant to add Lora Hubbel to Lieutenant Governor ballot | Argus Leader

Voters will see gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers’ pick for lieutenant governor on their ballot this fall, not his original choice who later withdrew. A federal judge on Monday ordered Secretary of State Jason Gant to print ballots listing Lora Hubbel’s name as Myers’ running mate. Gant had refused to do so, saying there’s no state law allowing an independent candidate to be replaced. But Judge Lawrence Piersol said that was likely an “oversight” and that not letting Myers replace his running mate would infringe on his rights and impose an “unequal burden” on non-party candidates. Gant said he wouldn’t appeal Piersol’s order and would immediately add Hubbel to the official candidate list. Ballots will be printed in early September. “I’m very glad the court has decided this is how they want to do it, and we’re happy to do it,” Gant said after the ruling.

South Dakota: Independent Myers sues Gant to replace running mate | Argus Leader

Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers on Monday sued Secretary of State Jason Gant for not letting him replace his running mate on the November ballot. Myers’ lawsuit asks Judge Lawrence Piersol to order Gant to certify Lora Hubbel as his new lieutenant governor pick. Myers originally ran with Caitlin Collier as his lieutenant governor. But when Collier faced family health issues, she attempted to withdraw, leading Myers to pick Hubbel as his new running mate. But while South Dakota law has provisions for nominees of political parties to be replaced on the ballot, there’s no such provision for independent candidates. As near as anyone can tell, no independent lieutenant governor candidate has ever tried to withdraw from the ballot in South Dakota history.

South Dakota: A new lieutenant for Myers, but law doesn’t allow switch | Argus Leader

On Tuesday, independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers will announce a new running mate after his previous pick for lieutenant governor backed out due to a family health problem. Whoever Myers unveils next week, however, it will be Caitlin Collier’s name who appears on the ballot in November. In a possible oversight, South Dakota law doesn’t provide for an independent candidate to replace his or her running mate. “Her name cannot be removed from the ballot,” said Secretary of State Jason Gant. “There is not a law that states how an independent candidate can be replaced.” Lieutenant governor candidates nominated by a political party might be able to be replaced, though Gant said needed to review the law before speaking definitively.

South Dakota: Costs, logistics slow voting center expansion | Rapid City Journal

Despite few reported problems with voting centers during South Dakota’s recent primary election, lofty setup costs and logistics are slowing the expansion of the system that replaces residents’ precincts. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, South Dakota is one of 10 states that let counties adopt the alternative system. They rely on an electronic check-in process that gives voters the flexibility of visiting one of several locations in the county. Seven counties used the centers in the primary. Research indicates that the centers save money in the long run, said Wendy Underhill, a program manager with the National Conference of State Legislatures. But skeptics argue implementation of the system could be pricey.

South Dakota: State, counties find bumps, success in voter registration system | Argus Leader

The TotalVote comprehensive voter database got its first statewide test in the primary election June 3. Whether it succeeded depends on whom you talk to. While reported problems seem roughly proportional to the size of the counties using it, Minnehaha County Commissioners heard enough tales of voters being directed to the wrong precincts in the low-turnout primary to spark concern about how TotalVote will perform in the November general election, when turnout is expected to be much higher. Getting the election right is a sobering responsibility for public officials. The effect, for them, of heading toward the general election with potentially unresolved TotalVote issues might be summer dreams haunted by apocalyptic visions along the lines of Supreme Court justices peering owlishly at hanging chads and banana republic dictators winning elections by margins greater than 100 percent.

South Dakota: State, Indian group agree on satellite polling stations | The Argus Leader

After months of acrimony, including legal battles and harsh words, Secretary of State Jason Gant and a group advocating for Native American voting rights have reached a tentative agreement. In a meeting Wednesday in Pierre, Gant, representatives of the nonprofit Four Directions, and a collection of county auditors and other stakeholders agreed on a framework to spend state money to open early voting places in Native American population centers. The plan could “if not double, even triple” voter participation in several Native-dominated communities, said O.J. Semans, Four Directions’ executive director. At issue are Buffalo, Dewey and Jackson counties, where Indian reservations are dozens of miles from the county courthouses, where early voting takes place. That means taking advantage of South Dakota’s weeks of early voting requires long car rides for many residents of the poorest communities in the state.

South Dakota: Election changes win Senate’s OK | Capital Journal

The state Senate unanimously approved two sets of important reforms for South Dakota elections Tuesday. One would allow members of the armed forces to vote with digital technology rather than by U.S. mail. The other would establish a backup system for spring elections interrupted by bad weather or some other emergency. The two measures, SB 34 and SB 35, now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. They are proposed by the state Board of Elections, including Secretary of State Jason Gant.

South Dakota: County commissioners wary about e-poll books | The Argus Leader

Minnehaha County commissioners Tuesday postponed deciding where residents will be allowed to vote in next year’s elections after expressing doubts about the effectiveness of electronic poll books. The Sioux Falls School District was first in the state to experiment with e-poll books and voting centers in 2011 with Secretary of State Jason Gant’s encouragement. Since then, several other local governments have used the system, which enables residents to vote at any of several voting sites throughout the jurisdiction. The electronic poll books ensure people don’t vote more than once. One problem the school district had was getting enough ballots to each voting center. Because any voter can go to any polling place to vote, each site must stock ballots that contain every combination of races that day.

South Dakota: Military voting abroad gets a technology boost | Argus Leader

A new system unveiled Monday will help overseas South Dakota military personnel exercise their right to vote even as they defend that right for those at home, Secretary of State Jason Gant said Monday. It will make it easier for military personnel to obtain absentee ballots and register to vote. That process can take as long as 60 days now, but the new system will allow ballots to be filled out in a few minutes. No other state is doing anything like it, Gant said. “We wanted to truly be innovative in the country,” Gant said. “We didn’t want to copy what another state had done.” The system will enable service members to use the cameras on electronic devices, such as iPads or smartphones, to scan the bar code on their common access cards, the identification cards issued to all service members. … While the system uses online technology, it is not online voting because it requires users to print and mail the ballot. Online voting is controversial because opponents fear that voting information can be intercepted or altered.

South Dakota: Soldiers will be able to vote overseas | The Argus Leader

Absentee voting proved so cumbersome for Maj. Anthony Deiss when the Army National Guardsman was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 that he admits he “didn’t take advantage of it.” But that was then. Now thanks to technological advancements that will be unveiled Monday by Secretary of State Jason Gant, South Dakota service members stationed overseas are going to have a new online option for absentee voting. And Deiss, for one, is all for it. “The right to vote is a fundamental principle of freedom, the freedoms our people are fighting for,” the Rapid City guardsman said Friday. “What better way to show that and exercise that right by giving them another option for voting in a war zone? I think that is very symbolic.”

South Dakota: Ruling sides with Native group over costs of voting-rights lawsuit | The Argus Leader

Twenty-five Native Americans will not have to pay court costs related to their voting-rights lawsuit against the state and Fall River and Shannon counties, a federal judge ruled. The 25 plaintiffs from the Pine Ridge reservation sued in January 2012 to ensure they would get an in-person absentee voting station in Shannon County for the full period allotted by state law. In previous elections, in-person early voting was available only on a limited basis. After the lawsuit was filed, Secretary of State Jason Gant and local officials agreed to provide in-person absentee voting stations in both Shannon and Todd counties. Both counties do not have a courthouse, and the agreement would provide the early absentee voting stations through the 2018 election.

South Dakota: Task force to examine voting | The Argus Leader

Secretary of State Jason Gant will convene a task force this fall to consider possible changes to the state plan under the Help America Vote Act. The decision to name a task force comes after Gant and the Board of Elections deflected a request to establish in-person absentee voting and voter registration stations in three predominantly Native American communities. In his release announcing the task force, Gant said that issue and others could be addressed by the task force. The news release said Gant hoped the group would “strive for uniformity in our election system across all South Dakota counties.” Earlier this summer, voting rights group Four Directions asked the state’s Board of Elections to approve a request to place absentee voting stations in Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson. Four Directions Executive Director OJ Semans noted the state still had about $9 million in HAVA funds, money that Congress appropriated to states to modernize voting equipment and procedures following the controversial presidential election of 2000. Semans estimated the request would cost the state $50,000 per election cycle.

South Dakota: Gant forming task force on federal voting money; rights group calls it delay tactic | Associated Press

South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant said he’s forming a task force to address whether federal Help America Vote Act funds can be used to open satellite registration and early voting offices on three Native American reservations. But the head of a Mission-based voting rights group is calling Gant’s move a delay tactic. “They don’t need a committee,” O.J. Semans, executive director of Four Directions Inc., said Tuesday. “He has the authority to do it.” The 2002 Help America Vote Act was passed by Congress to address voter access issues identified during the 2000 election. Poverty on South Dakota’s reservations and the long distances to polling places hamper Native Americans’ ability to vote, Semans said. Semans has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the matter, and the American Civil Liberties Union and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association support the request.

South Dakota: Secretary of State won’t seek second term | Associated Press

South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant said Wednesday he won’t seek re-election and instead will return to the private sector at the end of his first term in office, which runs through the end of 2014. Gant, a Republican, previously worked in health care and was a state senator for six years from Sioux Falls. He said in a statement that he has accomplished his goals, including creating an online system for filing and accessing corporate documents, putting more open records online, increasing transparency in campaign finance and increasing access to the voting booth. His successor will inherit a government agency “that is at the forefront of technology,” he said.

South Dakota: 'They Caved': Tribe Claims Win in SD Voting-Rights Suit I

Plaintiffs and defendants both claimed victory on August 6, when U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier dismissed the Native voting-rights lawsuit Brooks v. Gant. Oglala Sioux Tribe members had sued South Dakota state and county officials, seeking a satellite early-voting and registration office that would give them elections in their own county and equal to those other South Dakotans enjoy. Once the lawsuit got underway, the state and county defendants promised to use federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money to give the 25 plaintiffs what they wanted through 2018. According to Judge Schreier, this meant the plaintiffs could no longer show the required “immediate injury,” so she dismissed their claim. However, she noted, her decision was “without prejudice,” meaning that, if necessary, the plaintiffs can sue again. “They caved,” said OJ Semans, Rosebud Sioux civil rights leader and co-director of voting-advocacy group Four Directions. “The court established what the plaintiffs stood up for and what Four Directions has been fighting for since 2004. Right now, there’s full equality for most of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the largest group of Indian voters in the state.”

South Dakota: State cited in federal election complaint | The Argus Leader

An organization that asked Secretary of State Jason Gant and the state Board of Elections to approve three early voting satellite offices in Indian Country filed a complaint Tuesday with the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Four Directions, an advocacy group for Native American voting rights, filed the complaint almost a week after Gant and the Board of Elections declined to establish early voting offices in Fort Thompson, Eagle Butte and Wanblee. The group contends that residents in the predominantly Native American communities don’t have an equal opportunity to vote or register to vote before an election when compared to residents in other parts of the state.

South Dakota: Push for satellite voting centers intensifies | Rapid City Journal

Tribal-voting advocates are pressuring South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant to approve the release of federal funds for satellite voting centers to serve Native American voters in 2014. Four Directions Inc., a Native American voting rights group based on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, asked the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday to investigate Gant’s refusal to release Help America Vote Act funds for voting centers at Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson. Four Directions also wants DOJ to investigate the recent refusal  to support the satellite requests by the state Board of Elections on a 4-3 vote with Gant leading and voting with the opposition. Four Directions Executive Director O.J. Semans attacked those decisions in his letter to the DOJ, saying they reflected ongoing inequality in voting access for tribal people. Semans wrote “it should cause you and everyone who cares about equal access to the ballot box for Native Americans grave concern that this denial is steeped in an intent to discriminate.”

South Dakota: Native American Vote-Suppression Scandal Escalates | Huffington Post

South Dakota has devised an ingenious new way to curb minority voting. For decades, suppressing the Native American vote here has involved activities that might not surprise those who follow enfranchisement issues: last-minute changes to Indian-reservation polling places, asking Native voters for ID that isn’t required, confronting them in precinct parking lots and tailing them from the polls and recording their license-plate numbers. The state and jurisdictions within it have fought and lost some 20 Native voting-rights lawsuits; a major suit is still before the courts. Two South Dakota counties were subject to U.S. Department of Justice oversight until June of this year. That’s when the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, saying, “Today, our Nation has changed.” Yes, it has. The VRA decision provided an opening for those who are uncomfortable when minorities, the poor and other marginalized citizens vote. Since the decision, new measures to limit enfranchisement have swept the country — mostly gerrymandering and restrictions on allowable voter IDs.

South Dakota: Indian voting centers not approved by state elections board | The Argus Leader

The South Dakota Board of Elections on Wednesday declined to endorse a proposal from an advocacy group that called for using federal funds to establish satellite voting centers in three predominantly Native American towns. Four Directions Inc. of Mission requested that the board endorse its plan to use money from the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed after the contentious 2000 presidential election to modernize voting procedures and administration. The state has about $9 million remaining in HAVA funds, and for less than $50,000 an election, HAVA funds could be used to establish satellite voting centers in Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson. All three towns have larger populations than their respective county seats. Fort Thompson, for example, has a population of 1,375 people, while the county seat of Buffalo County, Gann Valley, has a population of 14. County seats, however, are the only places where people can cast in-person absentee ballots.

South Dakota: Board defers stand on Indian voting stations | The Bellingham Herald

A state panel declined Wednesday to go on record as supporting a plan to set up satellite voter registration and absentee voting offices on three American Indian reservations in South Dakota. The State Election Board voted 4-3 against a plan to support the satellite voting stations after some members said the state first must consult a federal agency to find out whether federal funds can legally be used for the stations. Secretary of State Jason Gant will send a formal request asking the U.S. Election Assistance Commission whether funds South Dakota received from the Help America Vote Act of 2002 can be used for the three stations. Three Indian tribes and a voting-rights group have asked South Dakota to help set up satellite voter registration and absentee voting offices for tribal members who live far from county courthouses. The state is being asked to use federal money to help operate satellite stations at Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek Reservation, at Wanblee on the Pine Ridge Reservation and at Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

South Dakota: Panel mulls handling of elections during emergencies | The Argus Leader

South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant wants a task force to address election options during emergencies, such as when an ice storm tore through the state in April, postponing 30 elections. The goal of the task force will be twofold, Gant said. One priority will be to evaluate the actions made by governing bodies to postpone or continue the April 9 elections. “In the conversations I have had with folks who have worked elections, no one could remember a time when 30 elections were postponed,” Gant said. “We need to be proactive in dealing with issues. We need to see what worked, what didn’t work.”

South Dakota: Secretary of State Gant: E-Poll Books Prevent Voter Fraud |

An investigation is underway in Mitchell after Tuesday’s school board election. Craig Guymon, 54, has been arrested, charged and released on bond on a felony charge of voter fraud. Guymon ran for school board in Mitchell as recently as last year, he even filed a lawsuit contesting the election results after he lost. Now he’s accused of double voting but Secretary of State Jason Gant says an investigation into that case could have been avoided with the new electronic poll books he is working to roll out across the state. All it takes is a scan of a driver’s license to confirm a voter’s registration and if that person has already cast a ballot. “That’s why vote centers and electronic poll books are definitely the way to go, not only break down the barriers and allow more people to vote, but also to ensure no one can vote twice,” Gant said.

South Dakota: Bill eliminates absentee voting on Election Day | Rapid City Journal

A bill that would eliminate absentee voting on Election Day is sailing through the Legislature. Currently, walk-up absentee voting is allowed in-person at the courthouse through 3 p.m. on Election Day. The proposal that the House of Representatives is expected to approve today would cut off that type of absentee voting at 5 p.m. on the day before the election. It was approved on a 12-0 vote Tuesday by the House Local Government committee. The Senate previously approved the legislation on a 32-1 vote.

South Dakota: Senate passes absentee voting bill | The Argus Leader

The Senate wants to put a stop to Election Day requests for absentee ballots. South Dakota law requires counties to provide absentee ballots in person until 3 p.m. on Election Day. Senate Bill 130 would push the deadline back to 5 p.m. the day before an election; voters still could turn in absentee ballots the day of an election. The Senate on Wednesday voted 32-1 in favor of the proposal, sending it to the House.

South Dakota: Counties using new voter registration system | Madison Daily Leader

Counties across South Dakota are using a new system to access and update voter records. Total Vote allows county auditors instant access to changes that need to be made, from new voter registrations and pending applications to record deletions due to a death and notices of missing information with existing records. Lake County Auditor Bobbi Janke said she is just starting to use the new system, and it continues to improve every week. South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant said the system was created using input from auditors across the state. The goal was to create one computer system that could be used by all counties and the state. The new program is designed to communicate directly with other state departments that provide alerts related to voter records — like alerts from the state Department of Health regarding a death, which requires the removal of that voter from the active voter registration list. “It’s incorporated all of the election systems into one new system,” Gant said.